Frank Partridge (VC)
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|Frank John Partridge|
Private Frank John Partridge VC
29 November 1924|
Grafton, New South Wales
|Died||23 March 1964
Macksville, New South Wales
|Years of service||1942–1946|
Partridge was born at Grafton, New South Wales. He was educated at Tewinga Public School until he left at the age of 13 to work on the family's dairy and banana farm at Upper Newee Creek, near Macksville.
World War II
In December 1942, during World War II, Partridge was conscripted by the Australian Army. He served as a private in the 8th Battalion, a Militia unit formed in Victoria. In May 1944, the 8th Bn was posted to New Guinea.
In June 1945, the 8th Battalion was transferred to the Bougainville campaign, where it operated to contain Japanese forces on the Bonis Peninsula. It was here that Partridge performed a deed for which he received the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry that could be awarded to British Commonwealth forces.
On 24 July, Partridge was a member of a patrol ordered to destroy an enemy post, known as Base 5, near Ratsua. His section came under heavy machine-gun fire and suffered severe casualties, including a Bren gunner who was killed. Partridge, although he too had been badly wounded, retrieved the Bren gun and handed it to another man to provide covering fire, while he rushed a bunker and silenced the machine-gun with a grenade. He killed the only living occupant and attacked another bunker, but weakness from loss of blood compelled him to halt. Later he re-joined the fight and remained in action while the platoon withdrew from an untenable situation.
Partridge was the last and youngest Australian to be awarded the VC in World War II. He and Corporal Reg Rattey were the only Militia personnel to win it and they received the only VCs awarded to Australians for actions on Bougainville.
Discharged from the army in October 1946, Partridge returned to the family farm. He lived with his father in a dirt-floored farmhouse, and in his spare time devoted himself to self-education, reading Encyclopædia Britannica by the light of a kerosene lamp. He had an extraordinarily retentive memory and in 1962–63 he appeared as a contestant on the television quiz show, Pick a Box, compered by Bob Dyer, alongside contestants such as Barry Jones. His laconic manner appealed strongly to viewers. Partridge was one of only three contestants to win all forty boxes and his prizes were valued at more than £12,000 (in excess of A$250,000 in present day terms).
He married Barbara Dunlop, a 31-year-old nurse from Turramurra in Sydney, in February 1963. The wedding received extensive media coverage. She remained in Sydney while Partridge built a new house at the farm. He drove to Sydney every weekend to see her.
Later in 1963, Partridge sought Country Party pre-selection for the Australian House of Representatives seat of Cowper. His political views were widely regarded as extreme, and he was not selected. To supplement the income from his farm, Partridge also sold life insurance.
Partridge was killed in a car accident in 1964, and was buried with full military honours in Macksville Cemetery. His wife and three month old son survived him.